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Making the Perfect Cup of French Press

Photo by Luz Bratcher

During the first hours of your day, there is little in the world more satisfying than a smooth, perfectly brewed, aromatic cup of coffee.  The way most true coffee connoisseurs feel about their coffee is not all that different from a years-old marriage.  Simple within its novelty in the first stages, but over time, it grows enriched layers, built through preference, change and adaption.  Most start off with local-diner or grocery-store-shelf coffee, but those who develop a lasting love for their coffee often deepen their morning ritual by graduating to Turkish blends, espresso roasts and of course, French Press.

A lot of people have tried French Press themselves and immediately been turned off because they experience a bitter or murky taste and texture. Inexperienced French Press coffee drinkers and brewers are typically the cause of this.  When prepared correctly and with the right grinder and brew methods, French Press coffee may become your next morning — and maybe even afternoon — delight.

So you can’t really just go out and get a blade grinder, throw your beans into it and squeeze out a sexy cup of French Press.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, if you wing the brewing of a French Press cup of coffee, you’ll end up with a cup of crap.

First things first: the coffee beans are not the most important thing when brewing French Press.  While all coffee bean retailers and packaged coffee brands like to brainwash us into believing that the taste of the end product is tied entirely to the beans and how they’re roasted – it’s simply not true.  You could pay someone half a million bucks to hike over some remote part of the Andes and fetch you the rarest, smoothest, roastiest beans on the planet – and if you grind those fabulous coffee beans as an oblivious moron using a blade grinder – those beans may as well be coffee grinds at the bottom of a trash can.  Okay, maybe not quite that gross, but it won’t taste good, either, unless you like drinking French sludge.

 

 

Photo by Luz Bratcher

Photo by Luz Bratcher

 

The Rundown for Brewing French Press Coffee

 

  1. Get a Burr Grinder

What’s the difference? A blade grinder has a blade pretty much like a blender; it spins around in a circle and cuts everything inside into teeny-tiny, randomly-sized little bits. You need course, very evenly ground beans for a good French Press. A burr grinder can do this, a blade grinder cannot.

If you can’t spend the extra money right now on a burr grinder, simply have your local coffee shop grind it for you. Even many grocery stores have an auto-grinder with a French Press grind setting.

 

  1. Be Mindful of the Water Temperature

This is the other thing that will quickly ruin a cup of French Press coffee. If the water is too hot, it will scald the coffee grounds, and water that is too cool or tepid won’t extract flavor fully. Some baristas and coffee experts say you can pour boiling water directly over your beans unless your press is insulated – then it’s a good idea to wait 30 seconds.

 

  1. Wait Until Most of the Grounds Have Sunk to Put the Lid Back On

It’s highly advisable to give the grounds a gentle stir shortly after you pour the water over them, in order to assist water absorption and help the grounds along to sinking to the bottom.

 

  1. Brew Time

There is also conflicting advice on French Press brew time.  You will likely hear three to four minutes, but there is something to be said for those that advise six to eight minutes. Why? Because when you’re brewing with course grounds, they need to steep longer than finer grounds. Try six to eight minutes first – if you find it’s too strong, pull back to four minutes.

French Press coffee brewing science can get way more in-depth and technical, so if you want to know the complete mathematical breakdown behind it, in attempt to perfectly customize your French Press Joe for your palate, you can find out more about wetting, dissolution and diffusion – also known in normal non-geek vocabulary as seeping, brewing and percolating.

 

If you can’t get the hang of French Press brewing after doing your best to follow the aforementioned tips, try pulling back into other brew methods like Chemex or Aeropress, which also have their own brewing protocols for optimal taste and aroma.

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